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In response to my 11/27 post, a concerned reader writes:  “And yet a little historical perspective is in order. Making a living as a writer of fiction was extremely rare up until the 19th century. Then a combination of factors resulted in a huge market for reading material. This whole fiction thing is just a […]

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Virginia Woolf, as near as I can tell, never finished what is widely considered one of the greatest novels ever written.  Tom Eliot had been praising it to the skies, and maybe, she says, that is why she admittedly approached Ulysses with a chip on her shoulder.  Then she had trouble getting into it, and […]

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Jack Kerouac’s motto is supposed to have been “first thought = best thought.”  I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that he thought up a lot of other mottos before settling on that zippy little nugget of wisdom.  Kerouac was even more of a liar than is usual with writers; he even lied about his methods […]

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But wait.  Is Mrs. Dalloway really about buying flowers?  Not exactly, although in A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf says that buying flowers is a perfectly worthy topic.  Actually, what she suggests is that buying dresses is as important as things that men do, such as fight wars and play football. I once found […]

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Sharp-eyed readers of my recent attempts to work out a theory of literature will be excused if they have begun to suspect that I’m more interested in how something is written than what it is about.  Virginia Woolf once responded to a correspondent as follows: . . . don’t, I beg of you, father on […]

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I used to find it almost impossible to start a book and not finish it.  You want to know how it turns out, right?  You don’t want to miss out on what may turn into a wonderful read.  Well, my new rule is that bad books don’t get better. Did I just say ‘bad?’  Surely […]

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Rather incoherent, says Virginia Woolf, and also, as is the case with all theories, too definite. Theories often seem too definite to me, too, especially theories about art, but still I can’t resist whittling away at one.  Earnest Hemingway says that when he used to get writer’s block he would write down the truest thing […]

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My extended tour of early 20th century English writing continues to be both amusing and instructive.  I don’t know of any other time and place in which writers were thinking and talking and writing so extensively about writing.  In London you had the Bloomsberries and the anti-Bloomsberries duking it out in magazines, newspapers, lecture halls, […]

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As for subjects, there’s really only one, and that’s people, isn’t it?  Virginia Woolf takes H. G. Wells to task for writing instead about things.  She’s right.  Wells’ characters talk just they do in the recent movie Flyboys, an oater about airplanes.  Unfortunately there are actors in the airplanes, and the actors have to deliver […]

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